08/02/2011

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding - Wasn't AS bad as I expected...

So we had the usual gaudy dresses and over the top weddings, one involved: a helicopter; releasing doves; a venue frequented by footballers and celebs – then presumably, home to a caravan. Bizarre...

That wasn't the point of tonight episode though (thank God, how many more of those dresses do we have to sit through???), it was all about the Gypsy man and the role he plays in his family/community. To the strains of 'This is a man's world" the voice over told us that whilst Gypsy women many take centre stage on their wedding day “for the other 364 days of the year, who rules the roost?” Basically, it's the men and I was expecting to be extremely annoyed...

We were told that status very important for traveling man. Paddy, a respected member of the community, gets a new car twice a year to underlie that. Paddy runs trailer park in Salford, but, as the voice over pointed out, "earns his money by other means." Other means include buying and selling second hand cars and living off of the income of his past bare knuckle fighting career.  Sounds extremely lucrative, where do I sign up? As someone on twitter pointed out "2 brand new cars a year and £4,000 dining tables, and all you do is lay Tarmac and do up 2nd hand cars? I call BULLSHIT paddy." If I'm honest, I am struggling to disagree with that sentiment....

The delineation between men and womens' roles are very, very clear. The woman stays at home and cooks and cleans, ("A traveler won't allow his woife to work" said Paddy, "it would be embarrasin' for 'im") the men earn the money and do whatever else they like basically.  What they 'like' definitely doesn't include shopping. Cut to Paddy: "Very rarely do yuh see a traveling man goin' shopping with his woife...it's not our role is it?’  (Paddy, clearly a bit soppier than he'd have us believe, was actually out shopping when he made that statement). They don't like pushing prams either, as Paddy explained "Men don’t push babies around its just an embarrassment, you’d look like a joke..."

What they do like however, is bare knuckle fighting, which, although illegal still happens and is a key facet of Gypsy culture. There are strict codes of conducts around the fights and even a 'fair play' referee to enforce them. Women aren't allowed to watch (quelle supris....) but small children are, provided they're boys of course..We were then treated to a viewing of one of the fights, which frankly was reminiscent of a number of fights I saw at school. (OK so I went to a reasonably rough school...) So not that impressive basically.....The winner, Dean, wasn't happy at the "quality" of the fight (neither was I Dean) and stomped off like a 12 year old grumbling about it.  Hot on his heels was a small boy of no more than seven who was desperately trying to cheer him up: "You won though....At least you beat him though Dean.."  Touching? No not really....
Dean didn't think so either and suddenly got angry at the idea of being filmed by a camera "that was bought in a shop"???? Erm, that's how people generally come by them Dean. The cameraman, wisely, decided to stop filming after Dean threatened to get someone to beat him up...

It wasn't all nonsense, the spectre of racism reared it's ugly head, with one young girl admitting that she had hidden the fact that she was a Gypsy from her employer, for fear of losing her job. I guess anti-racism laws don't cover Gypsies???? More on that in next weeks episode apparently. The young lady, Violet-Ann, was leaving a job that she was enormously proud of, to get married (at the ripe old age of 22, practically a spinster, according to her parents….) In her own words, she had her own job, own money, own car but "when I get married, I can't just get up and go when I like. I'll have a husband to feed..." Post the wedding (during which she wore an incredibly understated dress - in comparison to some of the others we've seen..), she admitted to feeling lost, bored and felt like she was in prison.  A crying shame that a young lady that was described by her employer as exemplary, causing him to revise his views on 'settled' Gypsies, would be removed from the workforce, basically to clean a caravan...

We also saw Paddy, who I'll have to say, I'm warming too, organising an annual pilgrimage to his dead son's grave. It was actually quite moving and a great way to celebrate a life. Paddy mentioned that when they got home, he would spend the night dancing with his wife, to his sons favourite music. We like Paddy :-)
The fact there is a high incidence of domestic violence in the community was glossed over, again, thus missing a huge opportunity to raise awareness and help...They did however mention that due to limited access to health care (with all the traveling), over half of Gypsies don’t reach the age of 50 ???? That explains why they party so hard - I say go for it.

1 comment:

  1. who pay for these ellaberate weddings ??

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